November 19, 2013: A historic day for the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
A United States Air Force rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia carried the first UH made satellite into space.
“That was incredible,” said Larry Martin, a graduate student in engineering at UH Mānoa and UH Small Satellite Program team member. “I can’t believe what I just saw.”
“As it was lifting off, I was kind of waiting for the sound and once the sound hit me, it was more than I expected,” said fellow graduate student and team member Windell Jones.
Jones and Martin were at the launch to witness the event along with Professor Wayne Shiroma, the chair of the electrical engineering department and founder of the UH Small Satellite Program.
“It was such a great relief,” said Shiroma moments after the launch. “You know we started this small satellite program in 2001, that’s 12 years ago. So seeing this thing light up and reach orbit is an incredible feeling.”
“This is years in the making and we can finally say we’re in space,” said Martin. “We’ve done it and we have this under our belt so an incredible accomplishment.”
Martin and Jones were among 50 engineering students in the UH Small Satellite Program who spent the last four years designing and building the cube satellite or CubeSat from scratch, under professor Shiroma’s guidance.
“It just feels awesome that I can say now that a project I worked on is now in space,” said Jones as he still stared up into the sky after the launch.
“This is the value of hands on, open ended projects that the University of Hawaiʻi College of Engineering is famous for,” added Shiroma.
Called the Hoʻoponopono 2, or H2, the CubeSat represents cutting edge technology. It is about the size of a loaf of bread, weighs nine pounds, cost $220,000 to build and is replacing a satellite 20 times larger and 40 times more expensive.
“This is an educational project at a minimum but we are also providing a real need for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Air Force and that’s the icing on the cake,” said Martin. “We are really demonstrating something here.”
H2’s experimental mission is an important one, performing radar calibration and performance monitoring for U.S. Department of Defense and NASA radar stations that track various objects in space like missiles, aircraft, rockets, satellites, asteroids and space junk.
“This project is a testament to the type of opportunities we have at UH,” said Martin.
“It’s been the students training students and they get all the credit for this,” said Shiroma.